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NYC Shelter Evictions Leave Migrants in Disarray

Fisayo Okare

Oct 30, 2023

Los traumas que los hicieron huir de sus países de origen, sumado a las dificultades que encuentran al llegar a Nueva York, tienen a los inmigrantes que habitan los refugios de la ciudad de Nueva York con serios problemas de salud mental. Aquí, cuentan sus historias y las consecuencias que han tenido por buscar una mejor vida.

Danira and her daughters, ages 3 and 9, walking to their shelter after school on a rainy day. Photo by Rommel H. Ojeda

In July, the Adams administration announced shelter stays for single adult migrants would be limited to 60 days. Then in October, the city announced it would extend it to families with children

This weekend, city staffers told many migrants to leave city shelters known as temporary respite sites as their 60-day limits elapsed. Some of those migrants who had to leave did not know where to go next. This includes migrants at the shelter on Stockton Street and Lewis Avenue in Brooklyn, where dire conditions were reported earlier this year. 

Meanwhile migrants who remain in shelters fear they will be next to leave this week.

Migrants are also facing tumult as they’re transferred from one site to another. Some have been sent from the welcome center in Midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel to 185 E 7th street in the East Village. At this city-run center, migrants are being handed a one-page document stating that the facility is “not a respite site or shelter” but a “reticketing hub” to “get transportation to any state or country of your convenience.”

Diane Enobabor, a PhD Candidate at CUNY and founder and lead organizer of Black and Arab Migrants Solidarity Alliance, said she has been overwhelmed with requests for help.

“My whole WhatsApp is filled with men right now asking me what to do. They’re being kicked out of Stockton right now,” Enobabor said in an interview with Documented on Sunday. “From last week, people are on the street. The place that they sent them to in the Bronx … there’s no food. They told them it’s a transitory space.”

Asylum seekers have no work permits, so they can’t get jobs and begin paying for living expenses. Gothamist reported last Thursday that the new shelter evictions could mean immigrant applicants for work permits may not have a stable address where the federal government can send them immigration paperwork.

Sunday afternoon, migrants who were moved to a city respite site near Crotona Park in the Bronx were again moved to a respite site on West 110th Street in Harlem — a building formerly used as a prison. Enobabor said migrants are having to pay attention to a number system at the Bronx shelter for possible shelter reassignment when city staffers call their numbers eventually.

Documents given to migrants whose shelter stays have expired. Photo courtesy: Diane Enobabor
Screenshots shared with Documented showing WhatsApp messages sent weekend of Oct 27 – Ocr 29 to Diane Enobabor, PhD candidate at CUNY and BAMSA founder, from migrants about their current housing situation

Enobabor said she expected this would happen, and encouraged asylum seekers to leave the city because of it.

“The reason why I anticipated this was because of the lack of case management that was happening,” Enobabor said. “So the fact that the city may put so many hoops to just get [migrants] IDNYC and basic healthcare showed to me that the city wasn’t interested in them being included or integrated into New York.”

Enobabor added that the city is also lagging on accommodating foreign languages at official sites, noting that Arabic, French, and “countless African indigenous languages” aren’t being served.

A majority of those who have had to leave shelters this past week have been single adult migrants. But the new 60-day limit on families’ shelter stays the city announced this month means migrant families are currently confronting the possibility of having to leave shelters too.

Advocates have cautioned that shelter evictions could hurt the education of migrant children, the Daily News reported this weekend. Schools have been helping asylum-seeking children work through their trauma and form relationships with their classmates. It’s been daunting to face the prospect of having to start from scratch if parents have no choice but to relocate with their children.

Fisayo Okare

Fisayo writes Documented’s "Early Arrival" newsletter and "Our City" column. She is an MSc. graduate of Columbia Journalism School, New York, and earned her BSc. degree in Mass Comm. from Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos.

@fisvyo

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